It's go time. You can now preorder the Apple HomePod. ( .) The company's inaugural smart speaker will hit store shelves on Feb. 9 in the US, UK and Australia.
The release will conclude the HomePod's tumultuous prologue, which started with Worldwide Developers Conference -- just weeks before the " " that disclosed previously unknown details about the device (as well as , the and the ). Originally scheduled to debut in time for the 2017 holidays, the company officially until "early 2018," citing a need for "more time."in 2016. In 2017, Apple confirmed its existence at its
Apple will enter this increasingly competitive market with considerable headwinds. Even before it hits stores, we have some idea of how the HomePod will stack up, at least on paper, against the other players in the market. Of course, we'll need to get our hands on the HomePod before drawing any conclusions, but here's an overview of what we know -- and what we think we know -- based on rumors and confirmed information.
Confirmed: It will launch on Feb. 9 in the US, UK and Australia
, and the HomePod will go on sale Feb. 9. The company plans to launch it first in three regions -- the US, UK and Australia -- but we expect availability to expand globally later this year.
In contrast, Amazon has released only a few Echo models outside of the US (for example, in the UK and Germany), though we anticipate more Echo offerings in the UK and Australia in 2018. After initially launching in the US, the Alexa-poweredis now available in Australia, Germany, the UK and the US.
Confirmed: It won't be cheap
This is Apple, after all. The HomePod will launch squarely into the high end of the smart speaker market. Priced at $349, £319 or AU$499, the characteristically premium device is over $100 more expensive than Amazon's priciest Alexa smart speaker, the.
It will cost over $150 more than Sonos One -- a frenemy that has promised to add support for Apple's Siri voice assistant in 2018. Only Google's , at $399, costs more -- but, , its manufacturer has shown a willingness to grant deep discounts.and the excellent
Confirmed: It will let you talk to Siri
We know the HomePod will provide voice-activated access to Siri, which will be the conduit for hands-free messaging, controlling Apple's Music app, setting reminders and getting news updates and weather reports.
These types of things are table stakes for smart speakers in 2018. Amazon's Alexa has been steadily building its arsenal of skills since 2014 and has smart home technologies. Though it's newer to the smart speaker market, the Sonos One is the first multiplatform speaker; it already and Google Assistant, and will add Siri later this year.of integrations with third-party developers and support for
Confirmed: It will support a bunch of apps
Siri has been relatively well integrated into Apple's ecosystem of mobile apps. But Apple says the HomePod will also support some non-Apple messaging apps, like WhatsApp, as well as other voice-controllable functions via Siri, such as note-taking in Evernote. This is an area that Apple will be playing catch-up, but with an install base of roughly 700 million iPhone users, the HomePod will come out of the gate with lots of momentum.
Confirmed: It will be compatible with HomeKit
The HomePod will also control smart home gadgets, such as lights and thermostats, and will serve as the hardware headquarters for Apple's smart-home platform, iPhone and iPad, so the standalone speaker will make them more accessible and surely more plentiful.. Until now, HomeKit apps have been confined to the
Apple had previouslybe added to each HomeKit-enabled device for certification, but , paving the way for greater developer and manufacturer uptake. Though Sonos and especially Amazon are compatible with an array of smart-home devices, neither has its own platform. Advantage: Apple.
Confirmed: It will have 'spatial awareness'
Apple says the HomePod will be able to adjust audio based on the environment, and that multiple HomePods will automatically work together to shape sound using its six integrated microphones. (The ability to connect two or more HomePods together for multiroom listening isn't coming until later this year, however.) A number of Amazon's smart speakers have Echo Spatial Perception (ESP), which makes it so that only the Echo device that's closest to you responds to your command. Two interesting and distinct takes on spatial awareness.
Confirmed (preliminarily): It will sound good
Apple has played up the HomePod's "incredible acoustic properties" and specs such as real-time acoustic modelling, audio beam-forming and multichannel echo cancellation. CNET editor Scott Steinand deemed the sound quality "vivid and crisp, more so than the Sonos and Amazon comparisons on-hand."
Still, the Google Home Max has two woofers and two tweeters, compared to the one onboard the HomePod and Echo Plus; it also has more ports than the Echo Plus, with a USB-C and a 3.5mm audio jack. We don't know what ports and connectors the HomePod will have. We'll need to complete a full review before we can make a conclusive determination.
Rumor: It has some sort of a screen
Steve Troughton-Smith, the developer who first discovered many of the juiciest bits hiding in the firmware leak, tweeted that the HomePod has an "LED matrix" that could "perhaps display shapes/symbols." Another developer, Avery Magnotti, followed that up with a screenshot of the code that refers to a 272x340-pixel resolution. Such a display could go the minimalist route, simply confirming that Siri is listening to your command, or occupy more integral ground, offering virtual volume control buttons or other navigational or UI elements.
Of course, if true, the HomePod won't be alone in the visuals department. A number of Amazon Echo devices have a light ring that serves as an indicator of sorts, and the Echo Spot and Echo Show both have full-fledged displays.
Rumor: It runs a full version of iOS -- just like the iPhone and iPad
Troughton-Smith discovered that the HomePod runs a full version of Apple's iOS mobile operating system -- just like the iPhone and iPad. Though the device appears to support Accessibility features like VoiceOver, it does not seem to accommodate the installation of apps or extensions -- for now.
In contrast, Amazon's smart speakers support, allowing third-party developers to create apps without needing native support. We assume Apple will eventually follow suit.
Rumor: It will be as powerful as an iPhone 6
Developers also found evidence suggesting that the HomePod will come equipped with 1GB of RAM and an Apple A8 processor -- making it about as powerful as anor in terms of hardware. If true, the HomePod will be the most powerful speaker of its kind, with more processing firepower than any model in or portfolios.
Editors' note: This article was originally published on Aug. 12, 2017 and has been periodically updated as more information came to light. It was most recently updated on January 26, 2018.